Immigration Update: Statistics on USCIS Backlog and Processing Delays 2022

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the USCIS backlogs and current USCIS processing times in the year 2022. You can expect information about the specific increase in processing times for I-130 family petitions, N-400 applications for citizenship, I-485 adjustment of status applications, and I-140 applications for employment based green cards.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.


The USCIS Backlogs

In this video we talk about the latest statistics with respect to USCIS backlogs and case delays impacting many of the people watching our videos. As you know, the Coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted the processing times of USCIS petitions with many service centers facing unprecedented delays. As time goes on, we expect the USCIS backlogs to continue to grow. It is estimated that the agency will take at least a year to catch up to current demand.

According to an August 2021 government accountability report, it is estimated that the number of cases pending adjudication at USCIS grew by over 81% since fiscal year 2015.

Looking at the second quarter of fiscal year 2020, USCIS had a backlog of approximately 3 million cases which swelled to 5.8 million cases by fiscal year 2021.

Essentially, the report indicates that USCIS processing delays have continued to grow since fiscal year 2017, increasing by approximately 50% in fiscal year 2021. This has happened despite only a slight 3.6% increase in cases received annually by USCIS. Over the last fiscal year alone (FY 2020 to 2021), there was about an 11% increase in USCIS processing times.

This information is crucial to understand the reasons behind the current USCIS backlogs caused partially by the COVID-19 pandemic, the inefficiencies on the part of USCIS, budgeting issues, and other contributing factors. The fact is, USCIS is facing a crisis.

So, what are the main types of applications being impacted by the backlogs?

According to the report, certain “high volume” forms filed with USCIS have been disproportionately impacted.

These include Form I-730 Refugee/Asylee petitions, that are now facing processing time increases of 20 months when compared to 12.4 months in fiscal year 2019.

Form I-485 green card applications also increased to 12.9 months when compared to 10.9 months in fiscal year 2019.

Similarly, N-400 application processing times increased to 11.5 months when compared to 10 months in fiscal year 2019.

Form I-130 petitions for alien relative increased to 10.2 months when compared to 8.6 months in fiscal year 2019.

Finally, processing times for Form I-140 immigrant petitions for alien workers increased to 8.2 months when compared to 5.8 months in fiscal year 2019.

In some cases, these processing times doubled, or even tripled, and we are only a few months into fiscal year 2022. Sadly, these wait times will continue to increase even more as time goes on.

The biggest impact that these backlogs have had are on the processing of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) also known as work permits filed on Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. When it comes to application for EADs, there are 4 main types of applicants: (1) applicants seeking employment authorization based on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (2) applicants seeking employment authorization based on a pending asylum application (3) applicants seeking employment authorization based on a pending adjustment of status (green card) application and (4) applicants seeking employment authorization based on other categories such as Temporary Protected Status and other special programs.

All 4 of these categories remain severely backlogged. USCIS recently issued a new policy stating that EAD combo cards will now be issued separately for those filing Form I-131 Application for Travel Document and Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. This action was made to help reduce the substantial backlogs and streamline EAD issuance to prevent employment interruptions. We have made a separate video discussing the possibility of expediting EADs and the criteria that you must meet to successfully obtain an expedite of your application. For information about how to expedite your EAD please click here.

EAD Processing Delays by Category

The government accountability report shows just how severe these delays have been in just the last few years.

Processing times for I-765 applications based on a pending asylum application rose from 1.7 months in fiscal year 2017 to 7.1 months in fiscal year 2022.

Similarly, processing times for I-765 applications based on a pending adjustment of status (green card) application rose from 3 months in fiscal year 2017 to 7.2 months in fiscal year 2022.

While processing times for I-765 applications based on a pending DACA application rose from 2.6 months in fiscal year 2017 to 3 months in fiscal year 2022.

What accounts for this delay?

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security eliminated the requirement that all EADs must be adjudicated within a period of 90 days. As you can see this policy change has had drastic consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, USCIS is optimistic that its new policy discontinuing the issuance of EAD combo cards will help the agency reduce processing delays. The agency does not believe that reinstating the 90-day rule will be any more efficient than its current policies.

What is USCIS doing to overcome these backlogs?

To help reduce current backlogs, USCIS is proposing allowing the electronic filing of most immigration applications on the USCIS webpage. Additionally, the agency is considering allowing applicants to correspond with the agency online, for instance when a response to a Request for Evidence has been requested instead of requiring the applicant to respond by mail. This process would greatly help improve efficiency to cut down on the processing delays.

Finally, the agency will be facilitating the N-400 citizenship process by allowing electronic online filing, faster scheduling of interview appointments, and reusing previous biometrics from past applications filed with USCIS.

The Bottom Line

It is important for the government to understand that it must take serious measures to provide relief to those stuck waiting unreasonable periods of time for their applications to be processed. Policies that merit serious consideration include bringing back the 90-day adjudication rule for processing of EADs and allowing premium processing service for most types of immigration benefits.

Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

Helpful Links


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For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.